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and holyoke also offered him money. but better than that. what they did was they said we will give you the property along the canal for $6000 for free, for five years. you don't have to pay any rent. we will build you a new mill. you don't have to put any down. you just start paying interest payment at the first of the year for five years. at the end of those five years you can buy back the mill at its original cost and you can buy back the lot at the original cost. so skinner was literally able to get going again without having to put anything down. the city also said we will give you an acre of land for free up on which to build a home. skinner of course moved his old home and relocated to holyoke, but again, property he didn't have to pay for. he had saved skinnerville to
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would have had to spare the burden of athlete ever -- every expense you would have to incur. this is the first mill that skinner had in skinnerville. incredibly, it went up six months to the day of the flood. >> and holyoke? >> this is in holyoke, yes. and ultimately skinner's mill turned into that. this was the largest silk mill under one roof in the world. in 1874, success of this scope was impossible to imagine. as was what it would take to achieve it. in 1874, skinner thought he was
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at the head of his game. he was 49, he had a wife and seven children, he had a village of about 200 people. this village had grown up around his silk mill that was named after him called skinnerville. he was at the head of the american silk trade at the time. he was bullish on the future, and he believed that silk in this country would become big business, which it did, but in 1874 he was thinking how can i expand my business today? how can i make it better today? and he uses it was the biggest room in the world? the room for improvement. and in 1874, he was looking to improve his business. he was bullish on the future. he was looking ahead. want to be accomplished, what could he make of this mill in skinnerville? how could he become even better than he was? so without i when i read you an excerpt of the book and then i will take questions.
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>> now, i apologize in advance. i won't be able to read and look up at you all because i now need glasses. and i tend to slip on my nose if i looked up and down. i'm going to have to keep my nose in my book as i read. chapter one, on the evening of may 13, 1874, a tall robust englishman walked through the door of the monaco's restaurant in new york city. he was neatly dressed in a black suit with satin trim, bowtie and embroidered waistcoat, dressed over his well fed growth. while an attendant of his overcoat he was great in the foyer by a host of my faces and several hands reaching out to shake his. and american custom which he was by this time accustomed.
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and that gentile environment, however, his cockney accent soon rang out like a clarion call at dawn, and one would've been hard-pressed to find even a well-trained staffer who didn't raise a brow at the brashness of the tone. everything about william skinner stood out, even his head, since he didn't like cats and chose not to wear them, despite their currency on the street. inside the restaurant, which was house in the old grinnell mansion on fifth avenue and 14th street, skinner joint about 70 gentlemen who were finding answers to a private banquet room. they killed from a great many places but they had one thing in common, silk. it silk. here were the leading manufactures of the american silk industry, along with several congressmen, some local politicians, and even a japanese dignitary. skinner wasn't the only englishman among them, but at 49 he was one of the oldest, and he'd been specifically asked to give a toast that would reflect
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on the past and on of the pioneers, like himself, who turned an american-made silk into an enviable addition into the marketplace. skinner had wanted to be part of the line appeared he wanted to sit back and relax without the thought of having a speech to make. but he's one of his colleagues have successfully talked him into it. if having grown up poor and uneducated, skinner quietly harbored a sense of social inferiority, few could match his formidable knowledge of the silk industry or his astonishing success therein. further, he had a flair for the dramatic, and for all his instinct of hesitation to get up before a group of people, he possessed a natural ability to hold an audience's attention. this, along with the fact that he tended to keep things short, made him a popular speaker. nor would he let his peers down tonight. as skinner climbed the carpeted stairs toward the appointed dining room, chatting with friends and colleagues, at least
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part of his speech was already written out and tucked away in one of his pockets. anyone who read the papers for new anything at all about new york life knew that to lunch, dying or said that delmonico's was the crowning ambition of those who aspire to notoriety. a presence in this establishment, the most luxurious restaurant that ever existed in new york, suggested the repeatable success, socially and financially. banqueting here conveyed to the press and the public that this group of ambitious silk men had arrived. their tireless, determined, and often brilliant endeavors have firmly established itself industry in the united states, and that while glass, a national organization devoted to their cause. tonight these men were celebrating the second anniversary of the silk association of america and the exhilarating truth that the american silk industry is, indeed, a power in the land.
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their private dining room had been festooned with flags representing all the great silk producing nations of the world, with the u.s. flag and the flag of the empire of japan joined in symbolic solidarity at one end. banners from every state in the in any throughout the room as well, remind each manufacturer that he was indeed part of the union, an industry of thousands of which he was a vital member. at the center of it offloaded a sea of colorful balloons above tables listening with silver and crystal. each balloon had been painstakipainstaki ngly tied with silk thread to the stem at a champagne glass and labeled with an industry trademark, advertising the breath of american silk manufacture. over here was courted shelley. over there, chennai chief. and another direction was the name of skinner's own them. later on, with a toast under way, the blues serve yet another purpose, the very sea would
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appear to rise up as the men raised their glasses in unison, elevating the occasion still further. in keeping with the celebration, the menus have been printed on an american silk, in purple, blue and green with white french. like miniature silk scarves, they were soft to the touch and delegate to the eye, and sat eye, and sat in fabric casting off a rich luster under the goal of the chandeliers. on the front they listed the exquisite bill of fare, devised by "new york post" famous chef, but with everything written in french as on any given night of the restaurant, all this of course was quite unintelligible to many of the gentlemen present. the backs of the menus featured more familiar english, since this is where the evenings posts were listed. down toward the middle was skinner speech, our pioneers, cherishing the recollections of the past, we emulate their example. by the time he stood up to present, a great deal of reminiscing would have already
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taken place, but his words, the organizers hoped, would put a flourishing cap on the topic. this dinner, after all, was nothing if not a jubilant reminder to all the men gathered that they were not only benefactors of the past at progenitors of the future. they too were making history. two days later, skinner was on a northbound train heading up the connecticut shoreline on his way home to massachusetts. according to his regular schedule, he visited the city nearly every month. it was on the last possible train of the day which left the grand central depot at 3 p.m. and put on target through skinnerville at night if i time it. goes to 90 car on the train. that america wasn't yet the very red. there would be no 20 minute meal stop any stations along the way. unlike his glorious to path of
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two nights before, this evening's dinner was most likely packed in a box of brownback, just a few perfunctory rituals for a traveling businessman. as the train sped along past the white church spires of various new england greens, the afternoon sun began falling toward the west and the temperature began dropping as well. they held towns of western massachusetts, of which skinnerville was one, were known for the long winters, and the year 1874 had been no exception. it had snowed for days at the end of april, with heavy storms paralyzing the countryside, and they were still still on the ground in patches. at for the moment, and that some streetcar, skinner was miles or any lingering wintry weather. outside the sky was clear. the tracks were clear, and he was rapidly winding down one of the most rewarding business trips he'd ever had. skinner had just been hailed as a pioneer in his field. his speech at the bank would have been so successful it was highlighted in the papers.
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and his industry was considered by some to be one of the most exciting in america. furthermore, his store downtown was filled with activity. it is hard a new salesman, a strapping young man named fred warner, and he was getting ready to expand his business again. skinner wanted to branch out into the manufacture, a thread used to make ribbons which are increasingly the rage. skinner already have the requisite machinery on hand and apparently erected in addition to his middle department even at a local architect to design no fewer than eight new tenements to accommodate the new employees he expected to hire. as much as business may have preoccupied his thoughts though, he had something else on his mind this friday, may 15, 1874. his 18th wedding anniversary was this very day. and hidden, protected in his suit was surely a velvet lined box from his favorite jeweler,
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louis tiffany, was something precious for his wife, lizzy. skinner love giving things. we been unable to go on the date of this anniversary, he returned with a diamond scarf in carefully selected and beautifully wrapped for the woman whom he called my darling. skinner light on his wife more than anyone. every bit as intelligence after husband, lizzy was in any conventional sense much better educated and having attended both elementary and boarding schools and having her self-worth as a teacher for many years. they say nothing this woman couldn't do from laying linoleum to explain mathematics. following the birth of the fourth child, she even helped handle affairs at the milk while skinner was away at england. later she helped run the mill's boarding house. ike and mamie world housewives she was integrally involved in her husband's business. at what set her apart was the fact that she was the wife of a rich manufacture.
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there is no economic reason for her to be absorbing these kinds of responsibilities. she simply took them on, utilizing the amazing genius for organizations and development. or than a wife to skinner, lizzy was a partner. skinner's first wife had died young leaving him with two very small growth. by lizzy had raised their children as her own and had given birth to eight more as well. of these 10 children, seven were still living, and adding to skinner's sense of the congressmen, all were thriving. two girls had grown into smart, educated young women under the stepmother's tutelage. nelly had graduate from boarding school in connecticut where she studied french with none other than -- on his way to becoming prime minister of france. nina had gone a step further interim college with both of her parents resounding blessing. she was attending vassar in new
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york. lizzy's eldest, will, 17, was about to close out his high school years. graduation was just a few weeks away. that is, if you could make it without being expelled. will was charming, handsome, and much to his parents dismay, completely ambivalent about his education. even so, skinner hoped he would go on. also involved in boarding school was libbey, 14, was attending school in connecticut but her schoolyard just ended and she was back home again. joe, 11 and belle, eight, were each eager for summer break. getting ready for the summer games, joe bought a baseball bat, and katherine, only six month old, had recently made her first appearance in public with the world's delight in her just as much as she in it. skinner's train pulled into new
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haven shortly before 6:00. departing passengers gathered the hats and bags and filed past and out of the car. replaced by a throng of new places coming aboard to each one looking for an available seat, preferably by the window if he or she wished to read by the last light of the day but a couple of hours and a few stops later, the train pulled into northampton, where skinner made his way to the exit and down the steps to the platform. here be transferred to a little one car special all but a dinky locomotor that took in the last leg of his journey up the branch railroad of the mill river valley. the train passed the villages of florence, transport and haydenville. the last glow of gas lies that bind its streets, and then at last, skinnerville came into view. there was some light on across the river as well as several windows softly in the house is down by the road. the mill was but a large shadow in the distance, nearly indistinguishable from the
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general darkness. the school and general store to were no more than ink spots it was pitch black outside, owing to a new moon. even in the dark, skinner's album, ma a three-story mansion set back from the rest with tall french window stretching from front to back was quite identifiable. with several of its many rooms lit up in preparation for his arrival. through the air came the sound of the bell tolling 9:00 that at this moment skinner didn't do was to be up when he walked in the door. the babies usually to bed at 7:30 and the younger children around 830 thymic. there was always the possibly that belle and joe might try to keep their eyes open and since libby had just returned from school, she might have settled in to a round of checkers in a scene with mother, a very expert player while nelly needed to fight a fire. as the train slowed in its approach at the northern end of
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skinnerville, one of scanners employees, john perhaps, awaited him on the platform. the depot was about a quarter mile from the house along the dark unlit road. but when skinner stepped down from the car and into the cold night air, he would have done both driver and host already for the short jog home. the trip and this day were almost over. the anniversaries behind him, and a new year in the life of his marriage, family, and his work was about to begin on the morrow. he was 49, and the fabric of his existence had never been stronger. as he walked up the steps to his front door, there in the middle of skinnerville with a river flowing reliably behind them, the mill at rest across the way, the houses of his neighbors and employees all around, and a reunion with his wife and children just seconds ahead, there wasn't one clue, not any sign, that the very next morning nearly everything in this world
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would be swept away. thank you. [applause] >> so we have time for a few questions. and i'm going to ask if you could step up to the microphone. i know. i've had to be up here at a microphone. you can do it, too. >> what was the source of the raw material for his silk works? >> yes. the source for his mill was raw so that came from china. >> in thread form? >> no. it was raw silk. and it came from china and ultimately he began to also trade with japan and import from japan. the raw silk was what he imported, and he converted it to
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thread and then woven into fabric. >> what does raw silk look like? >> well, it is a silk worm cocoon, and you can come back and shake it. them off is still inside of it. and the manufacturing of silk is very complicated and extraordinary process. and this one cocoon is wound with one strand of silk that is about half a mile long. but it's so fine, very perceptible, and is nowhere near in any shape to be used as thread. so what happens is, in a nutshell, if you think of the pyramid and you think of a whole bunch of silk cocoons at the bottom. they are bound together into another layer, and then those are bound together and those are well together, and ultimately you get to one. you have one thread that is made
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of various silk filaments. so the raw silk is silk that has been unwound from the cocoon, and then joined together to a level, sort of part way up the pyramid, and enterprise in the states and bundles that were called books, actually, even though there was no literature involved, and there were big stacks of this raw material. >> did they ship textile as well or just finished the red? >> did a skinner? yes, absolutely. so he began manufacturing silk thread in skinnerville, and then in holyoke you begin to we've the thread into fabric. and that again was one of the proponents that enabled him to proceed. because when he rebuilt his mill he didn't just rebuild it to house the operation that he had been, he rebuilt, he built it, he built the mill of his dream.
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he built it so there was room to expand, to expand his business. >> did william skinner have any relationship with samuel wilson who was the founder of the seminary whose middle stretched from north hampton to holyoke, the largest employer of people in that part of the connecticut river valley from the mid-19th century to later on? he helped establish not holyoke -- mount holyoke. he said amherst college from distinction, and also was a major supporter of massachusetts aggie, which many decades later became massachusetts state, now known as the university of massachusetts. >> that's an interesting question, and i'm so thrilled you know so much about the valley. skinner did not work with samuel
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wilson. wilson was an extraordinary capitalist and the mill valley and he helped support many industries therein. at one point i believe he was a partner with the hayden's distorted paid nebraska but of which you saw a portion of their earlier. but he did not come he did not work with william skinner, no. thank you. >> at the skinnerville, what survives? has there been any kind of serious or amateur archaeological search for evidence of the mill? i mean, what can you find if you go to the site today? >> that's a great question, bill. if you go to skinnerville today, you will find a stretch of highway and you will find a few houses along the side of it. some of which are or were
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wrecked at the time of the flood that were refashioned into homes. and you will find a very tranquil, unassuming river flowing alongside of it which is the mill river. there's been no archaeological dig that i know of. if you want to find the area where skinner's house was, there's a utility, what do they call utility -- >> substation? >> substation or something like that, yes. and that is where his house was. locals in the area still refer to the area as skinnerville but it is no longer on the map. you used to, for years, be able to go to mill river and find bricks in the river bank and all kinds of things that had been washed away in the mill. over the past 130 years, most of the debris that was lodged in the banks has been taken by scavengers. but years ago that is how i learned about the flood.
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i went to the river and i found a silver spoon and pottery and china. >> secondly, in holyoke itself, the mill at its greatest extent, or any of those buildings standing? how are they being used? >> another great question. skinners milk isn't no longer stand it was set on fire by parsons in the early 1980s when holyoke was experiencing a rash of arson. and i met a gentleman recently who told me that when the milburn to the ground, that he was so intense that the water in the canals boiled. it is now a park i believe where the mill was. there are no remaining mill buildings of skinner's mill. the only building that remains that is connected to him is the house that he salvaged that is now a museum.
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and in that museum is an extraordinary archive, and you can go and you can see all kinds of illustrations, advertisements, you know, photographs and, you know, you have the paper record of the company and what it involves. that we don't have the physical record of it anymore. but there is some regeneration in the city of holyoke, trying to figure out to use these abandoned mill buildings, how to turn them around, and how to make them a destination. ..
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>> run to the hills. and a woman who worked in skinner's mill, she was an orphan, she worked on the top floor, she ran to the top, and she began ringing the mill's bell. the skinner family was at breakfast at the time, and skinner was at breakfast. his mill was already up and running for, you know, a good while, but he didn't have to be there. and so he was at breakfast. he had opened the mill, and he was at breakfast. he'd gone back home. oh, actually, no, he'd slept in that day. so from the trip before, he'd actually overslept that morning. so when the mill bell began to ring, his first thought was there's a fire at the mill. why else would the bell be ringing? and he leapt up, he darted outside, and he looked north, and he saw the huge, massive blackness to the north and heard the shout of the dairy farmer running by saying the reservoir's given way. and skinner ran down the street. at that time operatives were
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already beginning to pour out of the mill. and he started shouting at them run to the hills, run to the hills, run to the hills. and once the mill was evacuated and the last one to leaf the mill -- to leave the mill was the orphan who had rung the bill, he ran back to the house, flew through the house, grab the baby, run, get out the back. and they all ran to the railroad 'em bank withment and escaped within second. and when skinner turned around, he said the entire -- the water had swept in, and to him it was like standing on the deck of a ship in the middle of a violent storm. >> thank you, sarah. >> thank you. [applause] >> for more information visit the author's web site, sarahkill born.com. >> with just days left in 2012, many publications are putting together their year-end lists of notable books. booktv will feature several of
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these lists focusing on nonfiction selections. these titles were included in kirkus book review's best nonfiction of 2012. laurent duboise examines eighty's history. -- haiti's history. david talbot presents a history of san francisco in the 1970s in "season of witch: enchantment, terror and deliverance in the city of love." in "quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking," author susan cain examines the benefits of an introverted personality. david von trailly looks at 1862, the second year of the civil war and the actions of abraham lincoln in "rise to greatness: abraham lincoln's most perilous year." watch for this book on booktv in the coming days. and in "full body burden," kristin iverson investigates the
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nuclear weapons plant that was located fear her childhood home in colorado. for an extended list of links to various publications' 2012 best books list, go to booktv.com. >> you've been watching booktv, 48 hours of book programming beginning saturday morning at 8 eastern through monday morning at 8 eastern. nonfiction books all weekend every weekend right here on c-span2. >> booktv is in prime time this weekend on c-span2. starting tonight at 8 eastern with david talbot on the history of san francisco from 1967 to 1982. at 8:55 elizabeth dowling taylor on the life of white house slave paul jennings and his eventual freedom in 1847. at 9:50, chandra manning
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discusses the reasons why americans fought the civil war. and at 10:15, arthur herman on how fdr brought business leaders across the country to mobilize for world war ii. five-time grammy award winner james taylor spoke at the national press club earlier this month. he talked about the war in iraq, the so-called fiscal cliff and other topics. this is an hour and ten minutes. >> and welcome to the national press club. my name is theresa warner, and i am the 105th president of the national press club. we are the world's leading professional organization for journalists, committed to our profession's future through programming and events such as these while fostering a free press worldwide. for more information about the national press club, please visit our web site, w, -- w, w dot press.org. do know mate to -- to donate to
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our institute, please visit press.org/institute. on behalf of our members worldwide, i'd like to welcome our speaker and those of you attending today's event. our head table includes guests of our speaker as well as working club journalists who are members of the national press clubment and if you hear applause in the audience, we would note that members of the general public are attend, so it is not necessarily a lack of journalistic objectivity. [laughter] i'd also like to welcome our c-span and our public radio audiences. our luncheons are also featured on our member-produced weekly podcast from the national press club available on itunes. you can also follow the action on twitter using hash tag npc lunch. after our guest's speech concludes, i'll have a q&a session, and i'll ask as many questions as time permits. now i would like to introduce
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our head table guests, and i'd ask each of you to stand as your name is announced. from your right michael phelps, publisher, president and ceo of the washington examiner. doris mar go lease, president's toarl associates. jerry -- [inaudible] buffalo news and former national press club president. laura lee, producer npr and a new member to the national press club. kim taylor, former director of press for the boston symphony orchestra and james' wife. and i'm going to skip our speaker here, and next we have donna -- [inaudible] "usa today" and former national press club president. mary lou donahue, speakers' committee member who organized today's event. john crumpler, guest of the speaker. jonathan celante, former
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president of the national press club. mark -- [inaudible] kiplinger personal finances. [applause] thank you all for joining us here today. i really don't need to introduce james taylor to you in that we all feel that we know him and his music. but i'll take a moment to remind you of how and why we have come to feel we know him. mr. taylor's music embodies the art of songwriting at its most personal and universal form. he is a master at describing specific, even autobiographical situations in a way that resonates with people from everywhere. for more than 40 years, taylor has been a compass for his fans, articulating moments of pain and joy and letting his listeners know that they are not alone. james taylor has sold close to 100 million albums in his
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career. that is a very big number. look up to the stars on a clear night, that's what 100 million looks like. and he's sung at iconic and american locations like carnegie hall, fenway park, at president barack obama's inauguration and at the academy awards. he is a five-time grammy award winner, and he was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in 2000. he is a recipient of the national medal of arts, and even with his busy career, taylor has found time for politics. among the most active in the obama surrogates in the 2012 campaign, james taylor kris crossed the country in support of the president performing alongside with his wife kim spreading the campaign message wherever and whenever he was called upon to do so. james worked for the president -- james' work for the president springs from a lifetime of service to progressive causes and began in 2008 when taylor performs in large rallies in five cities in
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his native north carolina. his efforts there generated thousands of volunteers and helped win the state for the democrats for the first time since 1976. the last year has been especially busy for the taylors on the campaign trail, over 50 radio and television interviews and 40 events in 12 states, from concerts in living rooms and field offices to opening the final night at the democratic national convention and rally in the closing days of the campaign with the president in new hampshire. and just yesterday he helped brighten up washington, d.c. by performing at the lighting of the national christmas tree. in that moment, as in many others, his music was with us as we celebrated the season, our families and our country. ladies and gentlemen, i would like to welcome james taylor. [cheers and applause]
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>> thank you, theresa, thank you very much. and thank you, bill. thank you, susan, for these delicious cupcakes. fire and rain cupcakes. [laughter] it did not go unnoticed. i got a fire one myself. mighty tasty. [laughter] um, you know, i titled this thing today election reform because i thought i needed to have a title, but actually i probably know less about election reform than pretty much everybody in this room. so i will talk a little bit about it towards the end. um, really it's a -- what i wanted to do is describe a pilgrim's progress through the political -- as a citizen engaged in the political process as a surrogate. um, but i'll start, actually, as i used to start and have started many of my performances in the past with a song.
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this is a song that i, it's the earliest of my songs -- not the first song that i wrote, because that's unlistenable. [laughter] but this is, the song that i played for -- i'm nervous today, but on this occasion i was clinically nervous. i played for paul mccartney and george harrison in 1968 in london. and in january of -- february, i guess, '68 in london. i had been lucky enough to get an opportunity to audition for apple records. they were signing acts at the time. i was 19 years old. i had my guitar, and i had this song that i played for them. i'll play it for you now. ♪ ♪ >> is that coming across, laura? ♪ well, it's something in the
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way she moves, looks my way or or calls my name. ♪ that seems to leave this troubled world behind. ♪ and if i'm feeling down -- or troubled by some foolish game, you know, she always seems to make me change my mind. ♪ i feel fine anytime she's around me now, she's around me now almost all the time. ♪ if i'm well, you can tell that she's been with me now, she's been with me now quite a long, long time. ♪ and i feel fine.
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♪ every now and then the things that i lean on lose their meaning, and i find myself careening into places where i should not let me go. ♪ she has a power to go where no one else can find me and to silently remind me of the happiness and the good times that i know, you know? ♪ well, i guess i just got to know them. ♪ listen to what she's got to say, how she thinks a wish has been. ♪ to me, the words are nice the way they sound.
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♪ i like to hear them -- doesn't much matter what they mean. ♪ she says them mostly just to calm me down. ♪ i feel fine anytime that she is around me now, she's around me now i guess about all the time. ♪ and if i'm well, you can tell she's been with me now, she's been with me now quite a long, quite a long, long time. ♪ yes, and i feel fine [applause]
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>> so it turned out well. i was nervous. it was faster and higher in pitch than i just played it. [laughter] i was younger, and i was having an out-of-body experience being in the room with two living beatles. [laughter] it was amazing, because i was a huge beatles fan. and mccartney liked it enough that he signed me to the label, and george harrison liked the song enough that he went home and wrote it himself. [laughter] but, actually, i've ripped off so many beatles tunes in my life that turn about is fair play.
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anyway. so how do i get into politics from being a, basically, a sort of professional autobiographer? i think i just, you know, and is it, is it false advertising to sort of attract people for one thing and then ask them to pay attention to something else? i suppose a little bit, it is. but i feel so motivated particularly in these past two elections by what a wonderful president i feel barack obama is and by how important i think it is that he get a chance to govern, if that's possible. with this congress. but anyway, my father really gave me my politics, probably that happened with a lot of us here. and we grew up in north carolina
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he was a -- i'm a yellow dog democrat, as he was, an unapologetic liberal, definite progressive in my politics and my beliefs. and in a way i sort ofty -- i sort of think that i was defined, and i'm surprised to hear myself say it, but defined by jesse helms to a certain extent. [laughter] because in north carolina in those days jesse helms owned the only tv station, it was wral in raleigh, and he would go on at -- the programming was thin on the ground, and he would go on and deliver these creeds or harangues, these rants. and those of us living in chapel hill, north carolina, where my
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father was, worked for the university of north carolina, he had studied medicine in came brick in -- in cambridge in massachusetts and had met my mother there, but he had moved the family back to north carolina. and, you know, chapel hill was sort of a progressive enclave in those days, and jesse helms would refer to it in his tv editorials as communist hill. [laughter] he'd call it communist hill. and we were, in a way that, you know, that sort of defined -- was an early point as an antagonist, i feel as though he helped define me politically. and over the years i've tried up up -- i've tried unsuccessfully a sad succession of north carolina democrats trying to unsuccessful to unseat jesse
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helms. i never managed to do it, we never managed to do it in all those years. my friend john crumpler who is from north carolina here tonight, actually, got my wife kim and i deeply involved in the obama campaign, and he's nodding his head, because as a north carolinian, he knows about jesse helms. anyway, my father and his generation, i remember the first political campaign that i'm aware of being my family being enthusiastic about adlai stevenson over eisenhower back in '56. and my father and his generation in chapel hill were really, um, they built a bridge and sort of a bridgehead. they were pro-higher education, pro-infrastructure, they were, they were liberal in their politics and progressive, and
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they, they were deeply anti-segregationist and anti-jim crow. and they built in the raleigh/durham/chapel hill area something called the research triangle that depended a lot on education, on higher education and which has really paid huge dividends and, in a way, opened the road to the new south as we think of it today. my father would have been, in 2008, would have been so fiercely proud to see barack obama elected in north carolina, to see the country, to see the state go for barack obama. sadly, it wasn't to happen again in 2012, although we worked really hard at it. but anyway, my first, my first campaign that i actively was involved with was mcgovern in
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'72, and i think my wife kim still has the pumper sticker that says -- the bumper sticker that says don't blame me, i'm from massachusetts. [laughter] i think massachusetts was the only state to go for mcgovern sadly. [laughter] but kim also took a year off from, between high school and college and rang doorbells and called people up for that as a field office hand there in upstate new york. but that was, i worked with carole king and barbra streisand. we did a couple of concerts, three for mcgovern. although, actually, if you say mcgovern over and over again, it's in 6/8 time. it was 3/4 mcgovern sort of as a time signature there. [laughter] me and carole and barbra streisand. and in the years since then,
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i've supported -- i've gotten involved with a number of people in massachusetts, gary studs, ted kennedy, i worked on his campaign, i worked for elizabeth warren this past time. um, i worked for, see, i've written it down here if i can find it. i worked for dukakis and mondale and gore and kerry and really a long list of -- clinton and jimmy carter. i worked on john anderson's campaign, the only nondemocrat in the bunch. so, you know, it was sort of natural being so politically active over the years that i would get involved in the campaign of 2008.
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i really, i was hugely motivated also by eight years of cheney/bush. and i say it in that order on purpose. [laughter] those were -- it was a tough time for me. i really suffered. it made me deeply ambivalent about my country, that we would choose that -- even if we may not have actually chosen it. [laughter] but that that was our, that that's what represented us in the world. and i felt as though after september 11th the, the diversion, the distraction of the nation's concern and energy into iraq was unpardonable.
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and i felt that it was inept, corrupt and opaque. those were tough years for me, and i was very, very deeply motivated to, if 2008, to see barack obama, this wonderful sort of a surprise really. i couldn't believe our luck that we had gotten such a real person as, to make it through the filter system of our politics. so it meant a lot to me, and i know that it would have meant a huge amount to my father. so, because i think of him often. and so again in 2012 we, kim and i went on the road for obama. we did a, as theresa said earlier, we did about three dozen different events. it was really, restored my faith in the, in the country to see,
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um, to meet these people who had committed thimses to this re-election -- themselves to this re-election campaign. it was the largest grassroots event that we've ever seen in this country, and the people involved were such, just fundamentally such good people, i felt, that it really meant a lot to me to be involved in it. they were smart, too, the people that handled this campaign. they did it really well, and they were committed to this mission, and they really carried it out beautifully lt -- beautifully. i should say, also, that although i am a sort of relentless democrat, i do believe that a dialogue between, between -- a reasonable dialogue between republicans and democrats is what keeps this country on course and in balance. i think that, you know, by
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ourselves liberals would probably steer us towards a sort of paralyzed nanny state european style, and republicans left on their own would head towards oligarchy and inherited wealth and power. so i think that we really do need a strong republican party and a good dialogue between left and right. but paralysis seems to be the order of the day, and politics of fear. anyway, i will rant on and on. [laughter] and i promised kim i wouldn't do too much of that. it was a delight being involved in the campaign. the obama campaign. we had a wonderful time. and we went back to north carolina. we played, we played this song a lot. not going to play the whole
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thing, it's too long. ♪ ♪ in my mind i'm going to carolina, can't you see the sunshine, can't you just feel the moonshine? ♪ it is like a friend of mine that hits me from behind, oh, i'm going to carolina in my mind ♪ it will hold me close when no others stand around me -- the dark side of the moon. ♪ and it looks like it goes on like this forever, you must
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forgive me if i am gone to carolina in my mind. ♪ in my mind i'm going to carolina, can't you see the sunshine, can't you just feel the moonshine? ♪ ain't it just like a friend of mine that hit me from behind, i'll be going to carolina in my mind. ♪ yes, i'm going to carolina in my mind. ♪ oh, i'm going to klein --
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carolina in my mind ♪ [cheers and applause] >> all right. >> we are doing great. >> okay. i've written a few overtly political songs. so here come a couple of them. [laughter] i'll play you the first verse of a song called "line 'em up," which is actually about how things in this life tend to line up. ♪ oh, i remember richard nixon back in '74 and the final scene at the white house door.
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♪ the staff lined up just to say good-bye, tiny tears in their eye. ♪ he said nobody knows me, nobody understands. ♪ little people have been good to me, oh, i'm gonna shake some hands. ♪ but he he lined 'em up, lined 'em all up, oh, line 'em up, line 'em all up. ♪ line 'em up, come on, line 'em up, line 'em all up. ♪ >> not really a song about nixon, a verse about nixon -- [laughter] and how he left office. i was fascinated by to watch him
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on camera. he was at the podium saying good-bye, i'm not a crook, farewell, and then he had a staging problem. he had -- and i was interested in how they handled it. nixon didn't have a great walk. it was sort of -- [laughter] if you've seen those depictions of the evolution of man -- [laughter] from the sort of coming from the primordial ooze to, and then slowly becoming, walking on all fours and then, finally, ending on the extreme of cro-magnon man walking along this sort of -- along there sort of analyzing there. nixon's walk was sort of a couple of characters back from that guy. [laughter] they didn't want to focus on it, and he had a long walk. so they lined up all of the white house employees, and he went down the line as sort of like a receiving line and saying good-bye to all of them. which was really quite moving
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and saying hello and good-bye perhaps for the first and last time. [laughter] and then at the end of the line, he was on the helicopter. bob was his uncle, he was out of there. this next song is a more political song, it's called "slap leather," and it was -- the first verse is about ronald reagan leaving office which the first thing, if i'm not mistaken, someone can perhaps enlighten me on this, but it was my impression that one of the first things reagan did after leaving office was to accept a speaking engagement in japan for $2 million. is that right? that's what i've -- and that, for some reason, that sort of, that took me back. today it would just fall off my back like, you know, nothing had happened. [laughter] sure, what's more natural? but at the time --
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♪ keep all the money that we need for school, keep the people in out the cold. ♪ standing on a weapon you can never use, make them all an offer that they can't refuse. ♪ open the door, let the sharp men see hoover of the future and the land of greed. ♪ fell upon the -- to the japanese, slap leather and -- [inaudible] ♪ slap leather, go on, ron. ♪ turn the whole wide world into a tv show, you've got the same thing wherever you go. ♪ you never meet a soul that you don't already know, one long commercial for the status quo. ♪ -- your close friends as if you knew how the story ends.
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♪ -- sitting in a room alone, and there was -- [inaudible] ♪ oh, look, just about to die -- [inaudible] ♪ get all worked up when people go back to war, we'll find something worth killing for. ♪ tie that yellow ribbon around your eye -- [inaudible] fight a god damn fight. ♪ stormin norman, i used to love a parade.
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♪ slap leather, fall in love -- [inaudible] ♪ [applause] >> big mac that raffle being sort of code for the oversimplification of the arab world and the tendency of american foreign policy at the time to think that you could fix a watch with hammer. [laughter] yeah. big mac that laugh fell. yeah. so we did, we went on the road. we, in many ways, had our faith in the american process and our
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country restored by meeting some wonderful, committed people. who really mean extremely well and have the future of this country in their hearts and minds. but we, we raised the better part of $10 million, and that ain't right, you know? again, i don't know a lot about election reform, but it seems to me as though it breaks into two areas. one the campaign, and the other is the actual election itself. fixing the campaign is going to be tough, trying to get the money out of it. trying to get some forums for our -- in the place of our debates that actually give us a clear idea of who the candidate is and what they intend for the
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country, that's a difficult and tall order. trying to streamline it so that it doesn't take two years to run for public office. these are, these are difficult things to accomplish, and i don't know how we go about it. but it seems as though there is a side of election reform, the actual election process itself the day of elections that would be reasonably easy to do something about. or for me, i've just come through an election so, of course, as all of you have probably intensely, if not more so than i have because you're with the press. but, b um, it seems, it seems as though to me the vote is sacred. it is the democratic moment. it is the moment of the actual act of self-government is when
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we choose our representatives. and in, in the american experiment, this democratic light of the world, um, it seems to me as though the vote is the moment. and why we, you know, we have a day off for fourth of july, for independence day, patriots' day, washington and lincoln's birthday, veterans' day, we have mlk day. why can't we get a day off to go to the polls so that people can really make it? [applause] it just seems, you know, we have -- there was something like 60%, 63% participation of eligible voters this last election. off-year elections it's more like 40%.
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so average them out, we get 50% of our voters to the polls, and that's really, that's not good enough for what america is and for what it means. for some reason we're dropping that ball. i think we need a day off for polling, we need to open the pools for a week. when we identify people, when we officially identify people, they should be registered as soon as somebody has an official name and address. they should be, they should be able to get a note in the mail that tells them where to go to vote. this business of, the question of gerrymandering for professional districts is a profound conundrum. i don't know how we fix that. but we can at least get people back to the polls in greater numbers. there are a lot of people who in the country who do want to go in
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the other direction, who want fewer people to vote. and these voter id laws in the name of preventing voter fraud, i think it's a solution without a problem. the voter fraud in this country is pretty much equal to either side and is so low that the amount of people who are discouraged from voting by these new id laws, it's just a bad idea, in my opinion. also be you're concerned about voter fraud -- if you're concerned about voter fraud, a paper trail for voting machines which one-third of our country votes on, some kind of accounting possibility for diebolt machines so that we can check every hundredth machine against its actual paper trail is a much better and push more effective way to insure against voter fraud. you can go on google, you can
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find 20 different hacking experiments that people have performed on these machines, and diebold wears its political heart on its sleeve. they're very political there, you know? they contribute hugely to political campaigns. so a paper trail for diebold machines would be an excellent idea to make sure that that was not being hacked. because it's been repeatedly proven that it is embarrassingly easy to hack the returns of diebold machines. so that needs to happen. um, anyway, that's the, that's the election reform part of my speech. [laughter] and i'm going to end with another song that kim and i sang when we were out on the trail. kim actually thought, until she was about 12 years old, she thought the picture of fdr on her grandmother's mantelpiece was with her grandfather. [laughter] they did look a lot alike, but
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her mother was -- her grandmother was such a fervent new dealer that she also inoculated kim in no small way into liberal politics, it's true. ♪ ♪ oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amer waves of -- for amber waves of grain. ♪ for purple mountain majesty, above the fruited plain. ♪ america, america, god shed his
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grace on thee. ♪ and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea. ♪ from sea to shining sea >> thank you. [applause] thank you. [cheers and applause]
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>> so you shared with us your love for politics and how passionate you are for it. have you ever thought about running for public office? >> with my personal history? [laughter] that would be a massacre. [laughter] it would be fun to cover though. it would be. [laughter] no. [laughter] >> within the last year, bonnie raitt made the following comment: as far as i can see, we have an auction instead of an election. would you comment on her observation? >> you know, this citizens united decision is a disaster. it's really the wrong direction to head in. it's pollutant. you know, the fact that we can go through two years of paying very close attention to who these two men are and have no idea what mitt romney's plan for
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the country was. you know, a billion dollars spent on advertising? it's just, citizens united is a disaster, and we -- i talked to jim messina who, you know, who's so instrumental in the, in obama's re-election organization. he feels as though, gee, i hope i'm not speaking out of school the say this, but he feels that we need a constitutional amendment to protect voters' rights and to, and to also protect our elections from this, the pollution of this amazing amount of money. i agree with bonnie. i don't know if it's an auction, but it certainly is, the money is a distraction. it doesn't give us good information about who these people are. you know, noam chomsky who with
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i, forgive me, i love him -- [laughter] noam chomsky says that the size of a piece of information is to make it as short as it is today is an effective way of censoring. because it, basically, gives us the opportunity just to say something that people already know, you know? but the amount of time that it takes to contradict a sort of known, perceived consensus reality and receive wisdom to sort of disassemble that and to build in someone's mind and with a discussion and an argument another, an alternative way of seeing things, it just takes much too long for the way we communicate today. i don't know what to do about that.
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but it's, one of the main problems that liberals have and one of the questions we ask ourselves so frequently is how do we communicate our message? it's such a good message, you know? why, why can't we communicate this to people? why can't we tell them what's, what we have many -- what we have in mind? i think it's because people are looking for simple answers to complex questions. and when you rush in with a simple answer, people will flock to you, you know? that's what i meant when i said fix a watch with a hammer. so that's off of the question, the point about the question. but, you know, that's another amazing thing ha reagan taught -- that reagan taught us in those debates. [laughter] you'd ask ronald reagan a question, and he'd answer the question that he knew the answer to or that, you know, he just absolutely no problem whatsoever. [laughter] smooth and, you know, you'd say, yeah, that's great. [laughter]
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it's amazing. we see it more and more often too. you answer the question that you know, and ask me the next one, please. [laughter] >> would you be upset if president obama compromised too much with the republicans in order to avoid going over the fiscal cliff? >> oh, yeah, i would be, yeah. i'd be -- i'm, you know, i think it's remarkable that right after the election we get this thing that comes right up in our faces that, basically, outlines in bold relief the differences in the two ideas about how we go forward in this country. it's really excellent timing, and i think that we may have to go over the cliff, you know? if it's forced into it. but this, you know, this idea
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that you, that you bring down the cost of medicare by making it unavailable to more people -- [laughter] is a terrible idea of mr. boehner's. and the idea of -- i would be terribly upset, along with many of my friends, if obama compromised too much on what needs to happen that's called the fiscal cliff. please, carry on. [laughter] >> do you think that a prominent third party would help our country? >> i certainly felt strongly about that when i supported john anderson in '79. and he was, a large part of anderson's campaign was to sue state, the state ballot procedure into allowing third parties to have more access to the electoral process.
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um, i would like to see a third party available. but that, too, seems like a really tall order. yeah. >> what do you think is the appropriate role for actors, musicians and other celebrities to play in the political arena? >> you know, i think if you are a really motivated, committed citizen who feels very strongly about either an issue or a candidate, you get involved, you know? you go out and do it regardless of what it means. my, you know, as i said, i've got this long history as a yellow dog democrat liberal, and i don't think anyone's surprised to see me, and i think my republican friends tolerate it and largely forgive me for it. [laughter] but i know there are other
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people who take a real hit. um, i think bruce springsteen is very brave to support obama, because i think a lot of his audience is angered by that. and in a way it seems like a form of selling out. i think you have to feel really strongly about it. it can feel like a betrayal to people to see something politicized. maybe that speaks to the nature -- how low politics has sunk. that people think of it as a betrayal. but, you know, again, if you feel strongly, i think you get involved. >> can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to perform at the democratic national convention? >> well, it was in north carolina, and so i knew what song to play. [laughter] and it wasn't on,ing with carried at that moment before being carried at that moment by the national network, so i felt
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as though -- i didn't feel the stress and the extra burden of being on, you know, on television which is, which always affects me negatively. so it was good. it was nice to be home. it felt like the right thing. charlotte was, charlotte was electrified for that week. it was, it was a great, um, convention. we loved being there. >> i'd like to shift a little bit to music, a few music questions here. and you mentioned that your first record label was apple. and was wondering how much did the beatles help launch your musical career? >> well, i think just being signed and allowed to make that first album was, and being the first, um, artist signed to their label was a huge amount of attention for me to get. it allowed me to make my first
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record, and that got me my next deal with warner brothers. um, so it -- i don't think that the beatles themselves were in any way charged with the mission of publicizing james taylor. i think signing me was enough. >> what do you think is your secret for your long success? >> oh, i've got a great audience, and i love them. i love the people who come and see me. they've supported me for such a long time, and they're so, you know, they are -- they, as well, are lovely people. and i feel very at home, very comfortable with them. as i said, increasingly grateful as time goes by. and that and just the great, good fortune of being healthy.
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and, again, it's also a kind of music that doesn't tear you up to sing it, you know? there are some people who you hear, you hear kurt cobain sing, and you think how's that going to feel at the age of 50, you know? [laughter] sadly, we didn't get a chance to see, and i'm sure that it would have changed into something that would have been beautiful and worthy. but, you know, it's, it's a kind of music that lets you carry on with it. so, you know, it's, it all comes down to good luck. >> you're known for your incredible solo career, but you've also done duets such as with tony bennett, natalie cole. who is your favorite duet partner? >> do i get in trouble if or this? -- in trouble for this? [laughter] there haven't been with all that many, so i can mention all of
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them. aside from -- i loved working with mark novemberler on sailing to philadelphia, with allison krause on that beautiful tribute that she did, linda ronstadt. oh, there are, there are many. of course carole king, joni mitchell. i don't know, they're all -- it's impossible to choose. >> is there anyone that you would like to perform with that you haven't? >> um, i'd like to perform with harry belafonte if i could. i tried, i asked him. we did a series of concerts at carnegie hall, and i asked harry if he would, if he'd sing one of the songs that i grew up listening to of his, but he's
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pretty, he's pretty much decided he's not going to do that anymore. but, yeah. harry belafonte. >> what was the first song that you could truly play on the guitar? >> keep on trucking mama. [laughter] >> can you still play it? >> can i still play it? >> uh-huh? >> you don't want to hear that. [laughter] this is where things go south, yeah. ♪ keep on trucking, mama, trucking my blues away. ♪ keep on trucking, mama, trucking until a bigger day. >> etc. [laughter] [applause] >> did you take lessons, or are
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you self-taught on the guitar? >> i'm self-taught on the guitar. but a lot of people showed me stuff. they weren't formal lessons, but they were, you know, that's how it, how it worked. in the great folk scare of the mid '60s, as we call it. [laughter] you know? but we did, we, um, we would sort of share licks, and everybody would walk around with a guitar all the time. we thought that was normal. [laughter] >> your playing style has always seemed deceptively relaxed using your thumb, fore anythinger and middle finger in your picking. did you develop that style on your own, or were you influenced by anyone? >> i was influenced by a guy named travis, merle travis. he had a thing called travis picking, although he probably learned it from someone else
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himself. so it's sort of kind of like a walking bass. ♪ ♪ >> that was my, i threw in this finger, which -- [laughter] ♪ ♪ >>, um, that was the beginning of it. but it sort of allows you to play a baseline, and it's sort of a pianistic style because you can play with your right hand and your other fingers. >> what gave you the idea to do a slow version of handyman originally by jimmy jones? >> it was funny, you know, we were in the studio making a new album. we were cutting -- in our first day of tracking, we got three different songs recorded, songs that i had written and were ready for us to put down what we call basic tracks. and then you come back, and you sing the finished vocal on it or put other elements on it in an
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overdub. but we finished these three songs, and we still had, like, an hour and a half of studio time left before the meter ran out. and my friend danny said, you know, you always liked that song handyman, why don't we do a version of that? we whipped it up there in about 15 minutes, just came up with a quick james taylor-ized version of it, and that's how it went down. it was really off, just off the cuff, off the top of our heads. >> what inspired you to write "sweet baby james"? >> well, it was a song for my nephew who was the first child born in our family in our generation named after me by my brother, alex. i had been overseas, i'd been abroad making my apple album. when i came home, i was really keen to see the little baby, and
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i drove down to north carolina and kept thinking about wouldn't it be nice to have a sort of cowboy lullaby to sing this to new little baby james. and like roy rogers or gene autrey kind of there'll be blue shadows on the trail -- [laughter] or go to sleep, you little buck a radio. [laughter] you know? kind of thing. and that was the idea behind it. it was -- ♪ the young cowboy living on the range -- [inaudible] ♪ -- he sleeps in the canyons, just waiting for summer, his pastures to change. ♪ oh, then as the moon rises, he
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sits by his fire just thinking about women and glasses of beer. ♪ and closing his eyes as the dogeys retire, he sings out a song which is soft, but it's clear. ♪ just as if maybe someone could hear. ♪ he says good night all you -- my sweet baby james. ♪ -- for the colors i'd choose, won't you let me go down in my dreams. ♪ yes, i'll rock-a-bye my sweet babe by james.
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♪ [cheers and applause] >> sorry. i turned off my amplifier. if this is live for three minutes -- is that how much time we've got left? [laughter] >> i'm told we're all so enthralled with you, we can run a little longer if you want to keep going a little bit. [cheers and applause] >> thank you. people dashing for the door. [laughter] lock 'em in. [laughter] >> most songwriters will say that their songs are like children, but do you have a favorite song that you've written? >> that one. that one, i think. yeah. it says -- ♪ there's a song that they sing when they take to the highway and a song that they sing when
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they take to the sea. ♪ a song that they sing -- maybe you can believe it, it might help you to sleep. ♪ and the singing seems to work fine for me, and rock- a-bye, sweet baby james. ♪ [cheers and applause] >> yeah, that is my favorite. >> do you still write your songs down with paper and pencil? >> yes, i do. i carry a little -- i've always carried a little recording device of some sort. of they used to be pretty big, but now -- [laughter] now they're quite small, and i

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Today in Washington
CSPAN January 2, 2013 7:30am-9:00am EST

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